Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A prayer as we head toward the finish of another year...

Week 52:

Ephesians 1:17-23 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Keep these things in mind as you live out this last stretch of this year.  I lift up these things in prayer to God and ask you to do the same.  Invite God into these areas of your life.



Wisdom:  I pray I will unlock the wisdom that your Spirit has provided.  I pray I use this wisdom for good in order to lead those under my care. 

Revelation:  Please continue to reveal yourself to me.  I pray my eyes be opened to see where you reveal yourself, your purposes, and your ways.  Continue to reveal your character to me so that I may know your heart.

Enlightenment:  May I be enlightened.  Not so that I may be worldly, but so I am able to understand how you and your Spirit works.  Allow me to see what I need to live out my salvation in you.

Power:  God, let me touch the power you have already placed inside of me.  I pray I use this power for your purposes and to further your kingdom.  Let your power give me mighty strength.  Allow my weaknesses to show your strength. 

Authority:  Grant authority over the powers of darkness.  Bind the evil that attacks me daily.  Let your Spirit of authority live in me.  Let me use if for good and not my own selfish desires.

Forgiveness:  Soften my heart so that I may forgive those that may have wronged me and for those I am holding energy against.  Remind me that the measure I use is the measure used for me.  Forgive my sin; the hidden, the defiant, and the unknown.

Humility:  May I be humble in my thought and action.  Let me not think more of myself than I really am…the person you created me to be. 

Thankfulness:  Instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I pray I am thankful for what I do have.  Instead of focusing on the negative occurrences in life, I pray I am thankful for all the good that happens around me.  I pray I will be thankful for the blessings of the Spirit and of salvation. 

Fullness:  I pray I will be filled with life and joy that comes from above.  I pray I live every day with vigor that it is my last day.  I pray I bless others from the fullness of your Spirit.

Joy:  I pray that joy will abound no matter my circumstance.  I pray that deep in my soul I will feel joy.  I ask that I have joy to overflow for others to partake.

For others:  I pray for those who are reading this now.  I pray they are heard.  I pray for life in abundance for each person.  I pray that their souls be filled with your grace, mercy, and love.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

An article I have written for the Crucible Project Blog…


I have recently been honored to join 7 other authors in a rotating submission of blog articles for The Crucible Project.  You can read “Have I really changed at all?” Here.

Go and visit the site.  If you have not attended a Crucible Project weekend, then I highly encourage you to do so.  If you have a man in your life that is searching for a deeper walk with God and a Spiritual challenge, encourage him to go.

Thanks again for following my blog.

Blessings, and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!
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Monday, December 15, 2014

The leader mask...

Week 51:

Luke 11:43 Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.

Luke 16:14-15 14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.

Matthew 6:5  “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 

Mark 12:38-40 38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

One of the issues I believe Jesus had with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law was their love for their position.  These were Israel’s leaders.  Because of their knowledge and upbringing, amongst other things, these men had been placed into this leadership role.  I do believe that they initially approached their position with a strong sense of following God and leading God’s people.  Somewhere along the way, these men lost sight of what the initial assignment was for them. 

Somehow, these men began to believe that they were to act a certain way as a leader.  They began to take on this persona or mask that they felt a leader should wear.  They allowed the power of their position to make them into men they did not set out to become.  At this point, their position defines them, instead of their hearts defining them.  These men began to worship themselves and their power, all the while hiding behind the law. 


What is it about the leader’s mask that creates this persona and behavior?  When I exam my life, especially in leadership, I discover that I at times walk a similar path as these men did.  I get caught up in the position, the demands of the position, the power of the position, the rewards of the position, and eventually, the mask or persona of the position.  I actually give my power away to the position and become a victim of it.


In some ways, this is idol worship.  When I get caught up in my position, persona, and power, I set myself up as an idol.  I have said several times in many circles that in our culture the main idol we worship is ourselves.  Our American culture of hard work and a “pick myself up” attitude has us believing that we do all the work.  In some cases, this leaves no room for God.  In my case, I become a control freak and rely on my faith very little.  I create a world where I have the power, so I think.  In truth, I am worshipping myself.  I become a victim of my own creation.

Because of this mask and persona, I feel I have to be “on” all the time.  I leave no room for the authentic me.  If were to show that authentic part of me, I believe would be considered weak and flawed as a leader.  However, this world becomes exhausting.  Leadership should not be this hard.  And, I begin to lead in a flawed fashion.  My authentic self, which I have banished for the “position” begins to cry out to be let loose.  This hidden self could eventually cause me to self-destruct.  When I banish my authentic self, I am no longer living in truth.  I become a poser. 

When leading, there are times where I need to act like a “leader” and use the power given.  But I am to hold that loosely and stay true to who I am.  I must drop the leader mask and lead authentically.  Instead of performing how I think a “leader” should act; I am to lead authentically from my heart, married with my training as a leader.  I must look inside and see what drives me and connect with the authentic self…banished long ago.

For Christina men…if you are intrigued by this authentic leadership, then I suggest you join us on a Crucible Men’s Weekend.  I have not found a better place to lead men into authentic life and leadership. 

Questions/challenges:

1.      If you were to give your leadership mask/persona a character’s name, what would it be?  Explain.
2.      Where did your mask originate?  What was the reason?
3.      If you hide your authentic self when leading, why do you suppose you do so?
4.      What do you think about the comparison between the Pharisees leadership and how you lead?
5.      Pay attention this week to how you lead.  Do you hide your authentic self?  Are you victim to the position?  Are you tied to the mask?

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

New ads posted on this blog

In an attempt to monetize my blog, I have signed up for Adsense.  What this means is that there will be ads placed in my sidebar.  Clicking through pays a certain amount.  What I want to note here is that I have no control over the ads that are placed in my sidebar.  Furthermore, I have been told that the ads that show up for you the reader are based on your internet searches.

I just wanted to inform the readers that I am not sure what ads may show up.  Hopefully, few will be distasteful or offensive.

Thanks for following my blog.

Blessings to you and yours over this Christmas season.

Byron

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Being nice does not equal being Christian...

Week 50:

Matthew 5:46-47 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

I have heard a fallacy that seems to be common among those both in the Christian world and outside of the Christian world.  The fallacy is that to be Christian is to be “nice”.  Now, I am not saying to be Christian is to avoid being nice.  I am not saying that as a Christian, I do not practice being nice.  What I am saying is that nice is not a pre-requisite to being Christian.


Nice is not exclusive to Christianity.  Jesus alludes to this concept in the treatment of others.  In the passage above, He notes how we love and treat other believers well.  In fact, those He is speaking to are somewhat exclusive in their treatment of others.  It appears that these followers only treat other followers well.  Jesus points out that the tax collectors and pagans take part in that action.  He is advocating the difficult action of loving those who cannot or will not love us back.


This passage also triggers in me this fallacy that all Christians are to be nice all the time.  To be human and not always treat others nicely is somehow unchristian.  Now, to be mean and purposefully rude would be a bad witness to my faith.  That’s not what I am advocating here.  What really bothers me is the corner of nicety that I as a Christian have been painted into. 

For example, I have worked in a Christian School for most of my career.  When we compete in sports, we are many times accused of being unchristian because our kids, coaches, and parents show emotion in the midst of a competition.  Where does it say that Christians cannot be competitive and emotional?  Obviously, we do not want to bear a poor witness to Christianity, but some of what we are being accused of is simply competition and emotion. 

Another area of accusation is in the area of a person being directive or assertive.   My order is wrong in the drive through (again).  So, I go in the food place and make note that this is not how I ordered this meal.  This is assertive and directive.  I did not make any accusations; I just pointed out the mistake and in some cases ask for the change to the order.  There are times where I was accused of being rude.  I was not aggressive.  In fact I usually say, “I’m sorry, but this is…”  Now, in these cases, most do not know I am a Christian.  But the situation is similar in mistakes made among Christians.  Being directive is often misunderstood and labelled as rude and unchristian. 

However, Jesus was directive.  When I read through the whole of His story, I see at times where He says some things that make me want to cringe (and that is according to how I have been taught a Christian should act).  There is a time to be directive and a time to show compassion.  And Jesus modelled both of these for us.  There were times where Jesus seemed downright harsh. 

This devotional thought may seem more like a rant.  However, some thought needs to be put into how we present ourselves as Christians.  To put on the nice mask and deny what I feel is dangerous and veers from living in truth.  Obviously, I do not want to sin in how I handle myself in these situations.  But, I am not going to walk on eggshells either.  At times I have heard said to me, “That wasn’t very ‘Christian’” about an action I took.  If, I have not sinned or misrepresented Jesus in some way; then I usually speak this statement:  “Define ‘Christian’ for me (Which in and of itself is a directive question).  I think as Christians, we need not be painted into a corner of someone else’s definition of how we live out or faith. 

Questions/challenges:

1.      How has this landed with you today?
2.      What do you disagree with in this thought?
3.      What do you agree with in this thought?
4.      How has your Christian world been shaped by this philosophy of “nice”?
5.      Pay attention this week on how those outside of Christianity view how we should act.  Also pay attention to how “Church people” view this philosophy of “nice”.  Pay attention to your reaction.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ask for the want and then accept the answer...

Week 49:

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

I go back and forth in my life over prayerful requests to God.  I have heard sermons and studied lessons over the subjects of prayer and requests.  Some discourage the asking for trivial things.  In fact, some discourage too much asking in prayer.  Some encourage me to bring everything to God.  There is some truth in both worlds of thought.  Asking with a wrong motive in mind will get me nowhere.  Not asking at all is a form of doing life on my own without God’s guidance.


Paul’s story of the thorn in his flesh is a good example to follow.  Paul had a want.  He brought that want before God…three times.  When I have a want, I need to bring it to God.  I will get an answer.  It may not be the answer I want, but He is faithful to answer.  It may not be in the time-frame I expect, but He is faithful to answer.  The key is:  Bring my want to God.

Just because God’s answer may be “no”, does not mean I should not ask.  He is not going to think less of me because of my ask or my want.  Even if my ask is shallow and/or selfish.  He knows my heart.  He knows the whole of my being.  And, ultimately, He knows He is going to answer His way in His time and He is comfortable with His answer.  Even if I second guess His answer; He is not swayed or insecure.  His plan will prevail and it is perfect.

This leads me to the second part of the request.  In order to live free, I must accept God’s answer.  God answered Paul (in some form or fashion) that His grace was sufficient and that Paul’s strength was in weakness.  Paul accepted the answer with gladness.  He saw God’s hand and the support of Christ in the answer.  Even to the point of boasting.


Many times, I feel that I get no answer.  Sometimes, God is silent.  The silence may mean I am to wait.  It may mean “no”.  However, I think many times that I assume too much through the silence.  It may not be silence at all.  The answer may be loud and clear and I’m so focused on what I think the answer should be that I miss the true answer.  Could it be that I am so self-absorbed in my want that I miss the answer? 

So, I find this truth about me.  The want is easy.  The ask is sometimes hard (I may feel too shallow or afraid).  The acceptance of the answer is hard when it is not what I want or hard to hear or see.  Yet, my example of Paul is the example for me to follow. 

Questions/challenges:

1.      How does this verse land with you?
2.      What wants have you brought to God in the last year?
3.      Did you hear or see an answer?  What was the answer?
4.      What wants have you held back and not brought to God?  Why?
5.      This week, I challenge you to bring your want(s) to God and ask His guidance and answer around the ask.  Pay attention to what happens next.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bring it to Jesus...

Week 48:

Matthew 11:27-28 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

For many, this time of year is exciting.  The holiday season brings in a sense of thankfulness, family, and blessing.  However, for some, the holiday season is stressful and full of bad memories. Yet, there is one we can bring all of our thanks and hurts to…Jesus.

No one knows…  The Father and the Son are the ones in the “know”.  At first glance, this seems tough for a control freak like me.  Yet, as I look deeper and meditate on the thought of “no one knows”, there is comfort in knowing that I do not have to have the answer.  All I have to do is trust and follow.  Yes, I have endured things that this cruel world has put in my path.  However, I know that God’s plan has worked for my good.  I have seen the silver lining.  It is in Jesus.


All who are weary and burdened…   The promise of Jesus is rest.  In the midst of all that happens, Jesus knows and is willing to give rest.  Jesus knows all.  He is in tune with the father and knows the purposes for which we suffer.  The key…”Come to me…”  To gain rest, I must bring it to Jesus.


Learn from me…  In the times that I bring it to Jesus, I find that He opens my eyes to what I have not seen before.  I see the purpose in things going on around me.  Some of those things are not pleasant, yet peace abounds.  Jesus is the great teacher because He knows the Father.  Jesus chooses to reveal that knowledge to us.

Gentle and humble in heart…  Jesus does not force His way on us.  We make the choice.  He is gentle in His handling of me.  I feel His grace every time I bring my burden to Him.  He does not rule over me like some tyrant god.  He is humble in His power and teaching.  He is tied to the Father and understands the Father’s authority. 

Find rest for your souls…  The soul ties it all together for us.  When things are not right in my world, my soul cries out.  However, when in the presence of Jesus, my soul is at rest.  Why is it that I stray from Him and His teachings when I know that my soul will be in turmoil?  Maybe I get comfortable and forget.  Maybe I let temptation to make myself into my own idol and become selfish.  Regardless, I know I have to come back around to Jesus for my soul’s rest and comfort.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light…  It comes down to choice.  I can choose to live in turmoil and feed off of the “drama” of life; or, I can bring it to Jesus.  There is a risk to leaving the circus carousel of living in turmoil.  It may mean I have to give up some control.  It may mean I have to lose excuses for how I live.  Whatever the reason, it is worth the risk of bringing it to Jesus.  The alternative is much better:  Rest, learning, peace, mercy, grace, and love.

Questions/challenges:

1.      What does it look like for you to “bring it to Jesus”?
2.      In those times, how has He helped you?
3.      Describe how you feel when your soul is at rest.
4.      Give an example of how Jesus’ burden is light.
5.      This week, find some quiet time.  In that time, ask Jesus to come to you and give you a message of rest.  Pay attention
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Monday, November 17, 2014

The "karma" of God...

Week 47:

Psalm 7:14-16 14 Whoever is pregnant with evil conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.  15 Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit they have made.  16 The trouble they cause recoils on them; their violence comes down on their own heads.

Karma is a loosely used term these days.  Like many other words, the over usage has taken some of the original meaning from this word.  The word was originally tied to both religions of Hinduism and Buddhism.  However, the idea of and action creating a reaction is not limited to karma.  In many places of the Bible, we see consequences of choices and God is a part of the consequence. 


Unfortunately, in order to relate to those who have little Bible knowledge, we sometimes have to use terms like “karma”.  But, this concept of “What goes around, comes around” shows up in the Bible in several places.  This passage in the Psalms is an example.  I know for my own life, I still pay some consequences for choices I made years ago.


With this in mind, I do note that there are some differences between God’s “karma” and what others believe about “karma”.  In the original definition, a person is assumed to be reincarnated as something different than a human being in a future life…here on earth.  What he or she has done in this life determines how he/she comes back.  We know that our afterlife is different.  And, we have two choices…believe and follow Jesus, or not.  It is not measured in what we have done or not done.  Our afterlife is measured through the blood of Jesus. 

Our “karma” happens here and now.  Some of it may stay with us through the rest of our natural lives.  David was an example.  His soul was with God, yet his choices created a life that was difficult in his later years.  Choices I make as a father in raising my children have consequences that are both desirable and undesirable.  I see some of the fruits of that now.  If I were to be the type of father that constantly pushed my kids away; if came across as if my children were a nuisance to me, then my children would likely avoid me in their adult years.  That would be karma on earth for me.  Does it affect my salvation?  No, I have the blood of Jesus for that.

For many years now, I have looked at God’s “karma” this way:  God is not constantly on the lookout for when I do something wrong so that He can punish me.  Instead, God gave me His Word through scripture and wise, prophetic people and circumstances.  From that offering, God has revealed how life works.  When I choose a course of action, it will open a set of reactions/actions appropriate to my situation.  If I choose to be troublesome, then my life will be filled with trouble.  God gave me a “warning” in scripture.   It’s like watching a child about to step on a rake that is laying spikes up.  You know that the handle will hit him in the face.  So, you warn him and he does it anyway.  You weren’t waiting around with an extra punishment for him.  He made a choice to take action despite your warning.  The action created a painful reaction.  No punishment involved or needed.    

God may put things in my path to get me to go a different direction.  If I read into His word enough, then I will see why those things are in my path.  I will see that He is not looking to complete a “karma” cycle for me.  He knew what was going to happen if I followed through.  If I listen, then I avoid the consequences that are painful.  However, God loves me through all the choices.  This is not the offer of the gods of Hinduism or Buddhism (or any other major world religion).

The “karma” of God is already set in motion.  The salvation is there as well.  Both are within my grasp.  I can choose salvation, make mistakes and experience “karma” and still be saved by the blood.  Hopefully, this keeps me remembering that I have a loving God, wanting what is best for me.    

Questions/challenges:

1.      Does the word “karma” make you uncomfortable?  Why, or why not?
2.      Describe an example of the “karma” of God in your life.
3.      Describe an example of the “karma” of God you have seen in someone else’s life.
4.      Do you see God as a punishing God or a loving God?  Explain.
5.      This week, read through the life of David and pay attention to how he is God’s man, yet struggled with the consequences of his choices.  Note any comparisons to your life.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Discount on Weekly Devotional Thoughts eBook

Soon, I will be releasing Volume 2 of Weekly Devotional Thoughts.  In anticipation of that, I have discounted the price of my original eBook to $4.99.  You can get your Kindle version HERE





Thank you to all who follow my blog.  Thanks also to all who have bought the first version of my book.

Blessings,
Byron

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

No need for God...?

Week 46:

Luke 18:9-14 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
One of the biggest problems for the Pharisees was their self-righteousness.  I believe initially that the teachers of the law had the intent of leading Israel in following God.  Somewhere along the way, they took a wrong turn of being godly to being law-keepers.  They became so focused on the law and knowing the law that they became self-righteous.  When law and self-righteousness walk hand in hand; this creates no need for God.


In some ways, the western Church has become a law-keeping, self-righteous body.  Note, I am not saying all Churches, and all Christians.  What I am saying is that many times, we are caught up in the law, traditions, and doing things right so much that we have lost our thirst for godliness.  In our attempt to draw closer to God, we have become law-keepers in order to gain favor from God.  In some ways, this puts us in a place of comparing ourselves with others and their law-keeping ability.  Now, we have created in ourselves a self-righteous life.  Look at verse 11. ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.’  In the following verse the Pharisee lists his acts of righteousness.


Wow!  How often do I do this?  Somewhere, I take a wrong turn and begin to say to myself, “Look at all you have done for God.  And, compared to others, you have the knowledge, and the spiritual down.  You have it and they don’t.”  A self-righteousness of this kind is dangerous.  At this point, I have no need for God.  At least that is how I approach life.  I begin to rely on “my” knowledge, “my” righteousness, “my” abilities, etc.  I become distant from God.  I cease to have conversations with Him.  I’m headed for a crash. 

This parable is not so much another story about the Pharisees as much as it is a warning about self-righteousness.  Jesus is warning about a type of righteousness that has no need for God.  He warns in verse 14 of the crash through being humbled.  When that crash happens, I have two choices:  Turn back to God or try harder at my righteousness.  I’ve done both…and I’m here to tell you both are hard.  The try harder approach is just a denial of truth that leads to deeper problems.  The turning back to God is painful as I face the truth about my self-righteousness.  However, the turn back to God unleashes His grace and healing.  Whereas, the try harder has no grace and healing.

I need periodical heart and soul checks like this verse.  I am challenged this week to look at my self-righteousness.  It is time to repent and lay this before God…once again.  I may not like what I see, but I will like the result form the merciful, gracious, loving God of the universe. 

Questions/challenges:

1.      Which one are you today; the Pharisee or the tax collector?
2.      How has law-keeping hindered your relationship with God?  How has it helped?
3.      Who do you compare your spirituality with?  What does that look like for you?
4.      Have you seen signs of this in the Church today?  Give examples.
5.      This week ask God to reveal any self-righteousness you may be carrying.  Let His grace, mercy, and love replace that self-righteousness.

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Anguish, lament, and the human soul...

Week 45:

Lamentations 3:17-26 17 I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is.  18 So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”  19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”  25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

A few years ago, I was introduced to a video on anguish.  This video was a compilation of excerpts from a sermon by David Wilkerson titled A Call to Anguish.  It had such a powerful impact on me that I was moved emotionally.  That is saying a lot because at that time, I had become quite jaded and numb.  At that time, the Holy Spirit made a call to me, through this video, to bring my numb life to God.  I had already been seeking to hear God and follow His leading.  But, that day began the journey of transformation I am now on.

I have watched this video several times and have listened to the words closely.  In the moment I experienced this video and through some of my experiences in my soul work through The Crucible Project, God has helped me unlock parts of my heart and soul that have been covered for years.  It started in that place of anguish.


Anguish and lament is very much a part of the human soul.  As painful as they can be, anguish and lament actually unlocks our hearts for God’s love, mercy and grace to pour in.  I think the mistake that I made for so long was to believe that God causes or in some way encourages anguish and pain in my life.  When I believed that, I envisioned God as far away and disinterested in me.  When He was interested, it was only to correct me.  That is not the true God and that is not how anguish works.



Anguish and lament point to something not being right in my world.  I am either burdened with my sin or burdened with the results of sin around me.  I am saddened by the brokenness of the world.  When I look upon the lost souls searching the fill themselves with things other than God’s love, mercy, and grace; it pains me.  When I have pursued worldly things over God, I am left with emptiness. The only place to go is to a place of sorrow, lament and anguish.  It is in this place, where I face reality, and many times pain that I see God for who He is.  It is here that God shows me who I am.  In those moments, he replenishes my soul.


As long as I avoid my anguish…as long as I deny my anguish…as long as I hide my lament…as long as I repress my sadness, I keep god at a distance.  He is ready for me to lay my aguish and lament at His feet so that he may lift me up in His time and in His ways to fulfill His purpose for me.

Questions/challenges:

1.      What comes up for you when you hear the words anguish and lament?
2.      Watch the video (Click on A Call to Anguish).  What is your reaction?
3.      Where has God helped you in your anguish?
4.      Have you denied or hidden your anguish?  Where was God for you in that time?
5.      This week, look around your world and see what needs to be mourned.  Allow God to open your eyes so that you may lay your anguish and lament at His feet.
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Monday, October 27, 2014

There is a reason I need a Savior...

Week 44:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.


God is holy, I am not.  There is no way I can come into the presence of such a pure and Holy God.  To enter into His presence, I must be clean.


There is a reason I need a Savior…

Because of my sin, I separate myself from God…almost daily.  I forget about God.  I forget about His love.  I go against His commands.  I become selfish and tied up in my own agendas and desires.

There is a reason I need a Savior…

I can become so engulfed by following law that I forget what the law is for.  I make God’s law my god.  I judge others according to this doctrine on a regular basis.  I compare how I follow the law as opposed to how someone else does or does not follow.

There is a reason I need a Savior…

I become materialistic and worried about worldly things.  I let money drive my heart.  I let possessions be my god.  I seek happiness in what I have or through what I don’t have.

There is a reason I need a Savior…

I become judgmental because of my own shortcomings.  I compare myself to others either wishing for what I don’t have or feeling superior over those who have less.  Somehow I this this helps me feel better.

There is a reason I need a Savior…

My wounds drive me and define me.  I become the victim of my world and let it control my thoughts and emotions.  I allow this darkness to drive my actions.

There is a reason I have a Savior…

Since Adam and Eve, humankind has been trying to get back to God.  I search in the wrong places to re-connect with God.  There is a God-hole in my soul that can only be filled by a Savior.

There is a reason I need a Savior…

Sacrifice must be made to atone for our sinful flesh and decisions.  I deserve death for my sinful behavior. 

There is a reason I need a Savior…

Questions/challenges:

1.      What are some reasons you need a Savior?
2.      How does Jesus’ sacrifice apply to you?
3.      What is missing from my list for the need for a Savior?
4.      How has Jesus’ saving grace helped you?
5.      Pay attention this week to places in your life that remind you that you need a Savior.
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Monday, October 20, 2014

The ups and the downs...

Week 43:

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

There are so many ups and downs in life.  There are some who live on that roller coaster of up and down and in some ways thrive in that type of life.  There are others who rarely dip far and seem to ride the smooth track.  Then, there are those of us somewhere in the middle.  For all, whether they admit it or not, anxiety will show up.  This Proverb describes this anxiety well.  It is like a weight that at times seems too heavy to carry.


Many times in my anxious moments I am reminded about another passage:  Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Sometimes this passage is all I need to kick me out of my anxiety.  Knowing that my requests have been lifted up to God allows me to push through any fear that may be blocking my path.

However, at times, this verse sends me to a place of shame.  I think to myself, “I should not be anxious.  I am sinning because of my fear.”  This, of course, creates a different level of anxiety.  Because of this, I begin to analyze way too much.  When I begin to think too much, I create scenarios that are bigger than life and fear really takes hold.  Then, not wanting to feel afraid, I become angry and begin to act that anger out in unhealthy ways.  Turning it over to God through prayer and petition is sometimes difficult for a control freak like me.  I like to think my way out. 

Most of the time, someone close to me can see into my heart.  He or she can read my countenance and will ask me about it or even skip to just giving a kind word.  Even though I do not accept praise and blessing well (I have a hard time believing what I am hearing), those kind words carry me a long ways.  Furthermore, I believe that in those times, god has sent the right person with the right kindness to help lift my heart.

My challenge is twofold:  First, I need to be the kind word more often in my life.  There are those around me who have an anxious heart.  I have to be careful that I am not playing “hero” and filling a need for myself.  I simply want to be more aware of lifting up another’s anxious heart.

Secondly, I need to seek out those who give kind words when I am in the middle of my anxiety.  Trusted friends who know me well can tell me the truth about who I am.  I can go anywhere to fish for a compliment.  But those compliments and truths about me from friends help me to see and know that I have little to be anxious about.  This allows be to bring it to the Father in prayer in a different way. 

When anxious, bring to the Father and look for those who can help.  When you see someone anxious, give the kind word to lift his/her heart.

Questions/challenges:

1.      What has been your go to place when anxious?
2.      Do you ride the roller coaster of anxiety or do you not even get on?  Explain.
3.      When was the last time you offered a kind word?
4.      How often do you try to work your own anxiety out without the Lord’s help or someone else’s help?
5.      How does that work for you?
6.      This week pay attention to your anxiety.  Seek God and seek friends.  Pay attention to other’s anxiety and offer a kind word.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Awareness...

Week 42:

1 Timothy 4:16  Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

I can’t stand blind spots in my life.  When something I have been doing, that I was unaware of, gets pointed out, it throws me into a tailspin.  I feel as if I have been exposed and shame sets in.  Eventually, I see the revelation as a gift and become more aware in that area of my life.  I actually become more plugged in with my surroundings.


 Awareness is a key to connecting with others.  The beginning of this awareness starts with watching life and doctrine closely.  I have prided myself on self-discipline and awareness.  However, the self-discipline is currently lacking in the eating a weight department (ouch!).  As I’ve either mentioned or have alluded to in articles past, I became a poser in my young life in order to fit in.  Because of that, I developed an awareness of how I present myself.  To further that training, I hold degrees in Human Communication and speak publically regularly.


This type of awareness however, is not the awareness I needed.  This awareness does help with interaction and presentation but, there is a deeper awareness needed.  In fact, there are different aspects of my awareness that need continual stretching.  Awareness stretches like, emotional awareness, awareness of who I am in God, and awareness of God’s purposes.

The first awareness is emotional awareness.  Before this becomes judged as a “touchy/feely” topic, I want to note that I had for years repressed and numbed negative emotions.  I just did not like the pain associated with those emotions.  What I discovered in doing so was twofold.  One, I was also repressing and numbing positive emotions, mainly joy.  Two, in that suppression/numbing state, I was not hearing from God.  I was not feeling a connection to Him.  Head knowledge of God can only take me so far.  I also discovered that suppressing/numbing did not make those emotions go away.  In fact, they come back with a vengeance and show up in unhealthy ways.  Boom…blind spot!  By owning the emotion I feel, I keep it from owning me.  And…I sense the presence of God more frequently.

The second awareness is who I am in God.  Like many others, I feel unworthy of God’s love, mercy, and grace.  I am faced with my shortcomings and sin daily and will get stuck believing that I have no hope.  Yet, God, created me for His purposes.  He created me and loved me as His.  He even sent Jesus for me.  I have to be aware that I am His, created for a purpose; created in His image. 

Finally, and sometimes seemingly the hardest awareness, is the awareness of God’s purposes.  I have said many times throughout my writings that I/we must pay attention and join God where He is working.  This awareness became clear for me when I worked through Henry Blackabay’s Experiencing God material.  This study coupled with some work I have done through The Crucible Project, has helped me to see God working in His Kingdom.  Paying attention to rambling thoughts, people who enter my life, circumstances that occur, etc. has helped me to become more aware of God and His purposes.

As I journey on in life, I challenge myself and others to continue to become more aware in daily situations.  As I continue to watch my life and doctrine closely, it unlocks my emotional bondage, releases me from self-degradation, and allows me to see God in His world.

Questions/challenges:

1.      What have been some recent blind spots for you?
2.      How did you handle the pointing out of those blind spots?
3.      Where are you currently in terms of being aware of your emotions?
4.      Where are you currently in terms of being aware of whom you are in God?
5.      Where are you currently in terms of seeing God at work around you?
6.      Pay attention this week to how you approach your life from these three aspects.  Ask God to reveal to you what you need from Him in this place in time.
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"Let go and let God" because I can't fix this...

Week 41:

John 6:60-65 60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
I have heard, seen on bumper stickers, and/or read on decorative plaques the phrase, “Let go and let God.”  For me, the first time I heard the phrase; it gave me something to think about.  Now that I have seen the phrase many times, it lost its luster like so many phrases like it…the phrase has become clich√©.  However, recently, this phrase has new meaning.

Over the past few weeks I have been dealing with several situations where my guidance and mentoring has been requested.  In a lot of those situations, I have found that no matter the suggested guidance; the people requesting did not follow the guidance.  Or, as I probed deeper into the situation, I could see that my guidance was not going to help.  These situations were not going to get better.  I began to feel this burden of sadness come over me and the situations weighed heavy on my heart.  It was then and there I realized that what felt so burdensome to me, was the fact that I could not fix things for these people.

For as far back as I can remember, I have noticed that I like to help people in emotional need.  Some of this has been in order to feel needed.  Some of this has been a general compassion for the hurting.  Sometimes, my helpfulness becomes misguided and I become a “fixer”.  Over the last few years, I have been shown that my “fixing” was driven primarily by my need to fix my own discomfort with the situation at hand.  So, I have been doing work around becoming more helpful and less of a “fixer”.



Another misguided way I would handle those who I could not “fix” was to disengage altogether.  I did not want to “waste” emotional energy or feel rejected so I acted as if I didn’t care.  I thought that in some way this was protecting my heart.  All it ever did was numb pain…this never really made it go away.  In fact, it would drive me to “fix” even more in the next scenario.


In this recent string of situations, I have been offering my helpful side and stopping short of trying to fix.  Even if I were to move back into a “fixer” persona, the situations are beyond my fixing abilities (Of course, I am sure the past situations where I was “fixing” were beyond said abilities as well).  Now as I look at what is going on, I prophetically see that some of these situations have to get worse before they get better.  And, in some cases, the situation will not get better…at least not under its current support system.  In both cases, I am truly powerless. 

As I was carrying this burden of sadness, the above verse came to mind.  The context of this verse is not like the context of my situation.  However, I feel the results have a similar flavor.  Jesus has just finished a strange teaching around eating his flesh and drinking his blood.  He has also raised himself above Moses.  Many of disciples leave their following of him at this point.  Jesus does not try to fix this.  He does not chase after them saying, “Come back!”  I hate to say it this way but, Jesus “cut his losses.”  Instead, Jesus focused on the disciples still with him.  I am not saying that Jesus was non-emotional about the ones who walked away.  I believe that he was praying for them and thinking of them in his last days and even on the Cross. 

How do I go forward when there is no “fix”?  First, I have to recognize that I have done what I could.  Maybe all I am is one plants or waters seed.  And, it is okay for me to feel sadness around this.  This leads into the second step for me.  “Let go and let God.”  This is where it ceases to be clich√© for me.  I have no choice but to commit this to prayer and leave any heart changes, etc. to God.  Finally, I need to focus on those I can help and those I am helping.  This does not exempt me from being helpful.  I am not to disengage emotionally.  I also need not seek to “fix” somewhere else.  I am to become aware of where I am needed and pay attention to how long God has me in that scenario.  He will do His work beyond that.

Questions/challenges:

1.      Do you consider yourself a helper, a fixer, or does it matter to you?  Explain.
2.      How have you handled what you have seen as impossible situations?
3.      When you know there has been no way to see a solution, what have you done with your grief and sadness?
4.      What do you see in Jesus from this passage?
5.      What can you learn from His handling of the lost disciples?
6.      Pay attention this week to how you handle those situations that you cannot see a good ending in sight.  Ask God to help you turn it over to Him.

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